Tag Archives: morphotex

Teijin and its fibres at Nano Tech 2016

Teijin is a Japanese chemical and pharmaceutical company known to me due to its production of nanotechnology-enabled fibres. As a consequence, a Jan. 21, 2016 news item on Nanotechnology Now piqued by interest,

Teijin Limited announced today that it will exhibit a wide range of nanotech materials and products incorporating advanced Teijin technologies during the International Nanotechnology Exhibition and Conference (nano tech 2016), the world’s largest nanotechnology show, at Tokyo Big Sight in Tokyo, Japan from January 27 to 29 [2016].

A Jan. 21, 2016 Teijin news release, which originated the news item, offers further detail,

Teijin’s booth (Stand 4E-09) will present nanotech materials and products for sustainable transportation, information and electronics, safety and protection, environment and energy, and healthcare, including the following:

– Nanofront, an ultra-fine polyester fiber with an unprecedented diameter of just 700 nanometers, features slip-resistance, heat shielding, wiping and filtering properties. It is used for diverse applications, including sportswear, cosmetics and industrial applications such as filters and heat-shielding sheets.

– Carbon nanotube yarn (CNTy) is 100%-CNT continuous yarn offering high electrical and thermal conductivity, easy handling and flexibility. Uses including space, aerospace, medical and wearable devices are envisioned. A motor using CNTy as its coil, developed by Finnish Lappeenranta University of Technology Opening a new window, will be exhibited first time in Japan.

– NanoGram Si paste is a printed electronics material containing 20nm-diameter silicon nanoparticles for photovoltaic cells capable of high conversion efficiency.

– Teijin Tetoron multilayer film is a structurally colored multilayer polyester film that utilizes the interference of each multilayer’s optical path difference rather than dyes or pigments. Decorative films for automotive and other applications will be exhibited.

– High-performance membranes, including a high-precision porous thin polyethylene membrane and multilayer membrane composites for micro filters, are moisture-permeable waterproof sheets.

– Carbon Alloy Catalyst (CAC) (under development) is platinum free catalyst made from polyacrylonitrile (precursor of carbon fiber) in combination with iron species, which is less expensive and more readily available than platinum, enabling production for reduced cost and in higher volumes. Fuel cells in which the cathode consists of the CAC without the platinum catalyst can generate exceptionally high electric power.

– Carbon nanofiber (under development) is a highly conductive carbon nanofiber with an elliptical cross section consisting of well-developed graphite layers ordered in a single direction. Envisioned applications include additives for  lithiumion secondary batteries (LIBs) , thermal conducting materials and plastic-reinforcing materials, among others.

Teijin first came to my attention in 2010 with their Morphotex product, a fabric based on the nanostructures found on the Blue Morpho butterfly’s wing. I updated the story in an April 12, 2012 posting sadly noting that Morphotex was no longer available.

For anyone interested in the exhibition, here’s the nano tech 2016 website.

Cambridge University wants to take its flexible opals to market

Structural colour due to nanoscale structures such as those found on Morpho butterfly wings, jewel beetles, opals, and elsewhere is fascinating to me (Feb. 7, 2013 posting). It would seem many scientists share my fascination  including these groups at the UK’s University of Cambridge and Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, from the May 30, 2013 University of Cambridge news release (also on EurekAlert),

Instead of through pigments, these ‘polymer opals’ get their colour from their internal structure alone, resulting in pure colour which does not run or fade. The materials could be used to replace the toxic dyes used in the textile industry, or as a security application, making banknotes harder to forge. Additionally, the thin, flexible material changes colour when force is exerted on it, which could have potential use in sensing applications by indicating the amount of strain placed on the material.

The most intense colours in nature – such as those in butterfly wings, peacock feathers and opals – result from structural colour. While most of nature gets its colour through pigments, items displaying structural colour reflect light very strongly at certain wavelengths, resulting in colours which do not fade over time.

In collaboration with the DKI (now Fraunhofer Institute for Structural Durability and System Reliability) in Germany, researchers from the University of Cambridge have developed a synthetic material which has the same intensity of colour as a hard opal, but in a thin, flexible film.

Here’s what the researchers’ synthetic opal looks like,

Polymer Opals Credit: Nick Saffel [downloaded from http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/flexible-opals]

Polymer Opals Credit: Nick Saffel [downloaded from http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/flexible-opals]

The news release provides a brief description of naturally occurring opals and contrasts them with the researchers’ polymer opals,

Naturally-occurring opals are formed of silica spheres suspended in water. As the water evaporates, the spheres settle into layers, resulting in a hard, shiny stone. The polymer opals are formed using a similar principle, but instead of silica, they are constructed of spherical nanoparticles bonded to a rubber-like outer shell. When the nanoparticles are bent around a curve, they are pushed into the correct position to make structural colour possible. The shell material forms an elastic matrix and the hard spheres become ordered into a durable, impact-resistant photonic crystal.

“Unlike natural opals, which appear multi-coloured as a result of silica spheres not settling in identical layers, the polymer opals consist of one preferred layer structure and so have a uniform colour,” said Professor Jeremy Baumberg of the Nanophotonics Group at the University’s Cavendish Laboratory, who is leading the development of the material.

Like natural opals, the internal structure of polymer opals causes diffraction of light, resulting in strong structural colour. The exact colour of the material is determined by the size of the spheres. And since the material has a rubbery consistency, when it is twisted and stretched, the spacing between spheres changes, changing the colour of the material. When stretched, the material shifts into the blue range of the spectrum, and when compressed, the colour shifts towards red. When released, the material will return to its original colour.

I find the potential for use in the textile industry a little more interesting than the anti-counterfeiting application. (There’s a Canadian company, Nanotech Security Corp., a spinoff from Simon Fraser University, which capitalizes on the Blue Morpho butterfly wing’s nanoscale structures for an anti-counterfeiting application as per my first posting about the company on Jan. 17, 2011.) There has been at least one other attempt to create a textile that exploits structural colour. Unfortunately Teijin Fibres has stopped production of its morphotex, as per my April 12, 2012 posting.

Here’s what the news release has to say about textiles and the potential importance of structural colour,

The technology could also have important uses in the textile industry. “The World Bank estimates that between 17 and 20 per cent of industrial waste water comes from the textile industry, which uses highly toxic chemicals to produce colour,” said Professor Baumberg. “So other avenues to make colour is something worth exploring.” The polymer opals can be bonded to a polyurethane layer and then onto any fabric. The material can be cut, laminated, welded, stitched, etched, embossed and perforated.

The researchers have recently developed a new method of constructing the material, which offers localised control and potentially different colours in the same material by creating the structure only over defined areas. In the new work, electric fields in a print head are used to line the nanoparticles up forming the opal, and are fixed in position with UV light. The researchers have shown that different colours can be printed from a single ink by changing this electric field strength to change the lattice spacing.

As for wanting to take this research to market, from the news release,

Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation arm, is currently looking for a manufacturing partner to further develop the technology and take polymer opal films to market.

For more information, please contact sarah.collins@admin.cam.ac.uk.

The reference to opals reminded me of yet another Canadian company exploring the uses of structural colour, Opalux, as per my Jan. 31, 2011 posting.

Teijin Fibers Limited update

Teijin Fibers was the first company to create a product based on the nanostructures seen on a Morpho butterfly’s wing. The textile was featured in my July 19, 2010 posting about an Australian designer, Donna Sgro, who created a dress made from the company’s Morphotex product. Sadly, the textile is no longer in production as of this April 5, 2012 notice on the AskNature.org website,

Teijin Fibers Limited of Japan produces Morphotex® fibers. No dyes or pigments are used. Rather, color is created based on the varying thickness and structure of the fibers. Energy consumption and industrial waste are reduced because no dye process must be used.

In 2011, Teijin Fibers Limited stopped manufacturing Morphotex.

In the latest news about Teijin Fibers, the April 11, 2012 news item by Cameron Chai on Azonano notes,

Teijin Fibers, a company of Teijin Group, has revealed that Srixon is fabricating its new Pro Tour golf gloves called Srixon GGG-S005 using Teijin Fibers’ Nanofront high-strength polyester nanofiber.

The Srixon GGG-S005 gloves deliver remarkable grip performance, enabled by Nanofront’s soft texture and superior frictional properties. The high-strength polyester nanofiber also provides remarkable moisture diffusion and absorption for improved comfort, making the fiber a suitable material for golf gloves.

I went to the Teijin Fibers website to find more information about their Nanofront product,

Here comes the world’s first 700 nanometer ultra fine polyester nanofiber “Nanofront™”. The new “island-in-sea” composite spinning technology has solved the problem of unstable quality associated with conventional mass-production nanofibers. The surface area woven in long fibers structure could be tens of times greater than conventional fibers. This enhances water absorption, absorbability of particulates, and anti-translucency. The texture feels soft to the skin, and reduces irritation drastically. Suitable for a variety of applications, including functional sportswear, innerwear, skin care products, antibacterial filter, precision grinding cloth, etc. Teijin “Nanofront™” opens the future for fibers at last.

The Nanofront product is also being used in New Balance Japan socks according to the company’s Jan. 10, 2012 news release,

Teijin Fibers Limited, the core company of the Teijin Group’s polyester fibers business, announced today that it is supplying its high-strength polyester nanofiber Nanofront for use in running socks made by New Balance. The socks are being marketed by New Balance Japan and sold in its directly owned shops in Tokyo and Osaka, as well as other sports retail stores nationwide from this month.

Teijin's NanoFront New Balance Japan sock (http://www.teijin.co.jp/english/news/2012/ebd120110.html)

I’m sorry to see that Morphotex is no longer being produced especially since I’ve looked at Teijin Fiber’s statement about environmentally-friendly materials,

Teijin Fibers is striving to be friendly to the global environment, humans and various other creatures to make our society sustainable. We taking initiatives to manufacture environmentally-friendly materials such as using recycled polyester materials which turn garbage into resources, and employing recycling systems for polyester products. Furthermore, we are developing synthetic fibers derived from plants based on the concept of carbon neutral materials that do not use hazardous Substances [sic] as much as possible, and materials that create color without dyestuff.

I assume that there wasn’t enough demand for a product which achieved its colour, like the Morpho butterfly, due to the properties of its structure at the nanoscale.

The company seems to be having better luck with some of their other ‘eco products’. Note: Nanofront does not appear to be one of the company’s ‘eco’ products.

Butterflies inspire anti-counterfeiting measures

The Morpho butterfly is a singularly beautiful blue impossible for artists to reproduce with pigments as the colour is due to nanostructures which cause the wing’s unique optical properties. (Image copied from Wikipedia essay on Morpho butterflies.)

Photograph of a Blue Morpho butterfly (Morpho menelaus) by Gregory Phillips.

The butterfly has excited a lot of interest in the nanotechnology field and this morning (Jan. 17, 2011) research scientists (Clint Landrock and Bozena Kaminska) based at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada) announced that in an effort to eliminate currency fraud they have found a way to duplicate the butterfly’s optical properties on paper currency. It all starts with holes (from the Jan. 17, 2011 news release),

Imagine a hole so small that air can’t go through it, or a hole so small it can trap a single wavelength of light. Nanotech Security Corp., with the help of Simon Fraser University researchers, is using this type of nano-technology – 1,500 times thinner than a human hair and first of its kind in the world – to create unique anti-counterfeiting security features.

How this works is microscopic gratings composed of nanostructures interact with light to produce the shimmering iridescence seen on the Costa Rican morpho butterfly. The nanostructures act to reflect and refract light waves to produce the morpho’s signature blue wings and absorb other unwanted light.

The highly advanced wing structures are the result of many millennia of evolution, and only recently have Nanotech’s scientists discovered how to reproduce these structures reliably. While others have talked about the possibility of re-creating it, Nanotech has made this a reality.

The U.S. Treasury, which produces up to 11 billion banknotes annually, is a potential customer for Nanotech’s product. The new U.S. $100 bill, designed with state-of-the art security features, was supposed to be introduced in February 2011 but it’s been delayed due to some manufacturing issues.

According to Blakeway [Doug Blakeway, SFU Venture Connection’s entrepreneur in residence and also CEO and chairman of Nanotech Security Corp.], Nanotech’s product – which has attracted the attention of treasuries internationally – is superior to holograms and can’t be duplicated.

“Nobody has ever done this,” he said. “We have succeeded while everybody is still trying to duplicate or imitate a butterfly’s wing because it absorbs light and gives off the color. There’s no color pigment – there’s nothing like a dye or anything else. It’s a hole that traps light and releases color.

“You can’t copy or scan it in, you can’t inkjet it on paper, you can’t do any of these things. It’s extremely sophisticated and expensive to make the shims and dyes to produce, but very inexpensive to produce it at the end. Anywhere you can think of where a hologram is being used today, our technology can replace it. It’s more secure than a hologram. You can’t lift it off – we can put it onto metal, plastic, or paper.”

There is a video clip of a Discovery Planet item about the scientists’ presentation at the recent Las Vegas Consumer Electronics Show. (Note: The clip is about 11 minutes long and the ‘Morpho’ money item is partway through.)

I’m a little puzzled about whether or not this is really the first time (as Nanotech Security Corp. claims) someone else has been able to reproduce the butterfly’s optical properties since there is a company in Japan, Teijin, which produces ‘Morphotex’, a textile that has the same properties as the butterfly. This was mentioned in my July 19, 2010 posting which also features an image of Donna Sgro’s dress made from the textile.

Butterfly wings, morphotex, and trash fashion

Mimicking the structures found on butterfly wings, the fabric morphotex was used by Australian designer Donna Sgro in the dress she submitted to the Trash Fashion exhibition at Antenna, a science gallery at London’s Science Museum. (I previously posted about this show in Bacteria as couture and transgenic salmon?)

According to Jasmic Malik Chua’s article at Ecouterre,

… designer Donna Sgro fashioned the frock from the Morphotex, a nanotechnology-based, structurally colored fiber that mimics the microscopic structure of the Morpho butterfly’s wings, which despite lacking color, appear a shimmery cobalt blue. Manufactured by Teijin in Japan, Morphotex requires no dyes or pigments, nor the prodigious amount of water and energy used in conventional dyeing.

Here’s a detail of the dress from one of the many images available at Ecouterre,

Donna Sgro’s morphotext dress for Trash Fashion

This certainly sounds like a promising development. You can find some information about the product morphotex here at AskNature where you’ll find details including a patent number. Teijin’s (the manufacturer) English language website is here. Donna Sgro’s website is here.

You can find London’s Science Museum website here but I had a hard time finding anything more than this about Trash Fashion on their site.